The objective of pain treatment is to remove or correct the cause of pain or to lessen the severity of the pain; however, there can be a lag in time between identifying the cause of the pain and providing relief. The treatment of pain is diverse and can be difficult. A multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain management is often most successful but is not always available to everyone. This team approach involves both medical and nonmedical personnel and may include any of a number of approaches. There also are a number of integrative/complementary pain control protocols that may be effective. Treatment of pain depends on the type of pain. Medications, also, are different in their pain control management.



Medications tend to be the treatment of choice for many clients experiencing pain. Analgesics, anesthetics, and anti-inflammatory agents may be prescribed to decrease or eliminate pain, although they do not eliminate the cause of pain. Analgesics can be opioid (formerly referred to as narcotic) or nonopioid (formerly referred to as nonnarcotic), prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), and of varying strengths. Opioid analgesics may include morphine-like drugs, whereas nonopioid drugs include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A third category of drugs called adjuvant analgesics include those whose primary purpose is not generally used or prescribed for pain. For example, drugs used for depression may be prescribed to effectively treat pain. Other adjuvant medications include those used for seizure control and corticosteroids. Medication may be administered orally, intravenously, nasally, by injection, or from a skin patch. Additionally, medications may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatment modalities.


Nonprescription Drug Therapy

OTC medications may be useful in relieving milder forms of pain. These medications include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or such NSAIDs as aspirin, Aleve, or Advil. Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs can relieve pain due to muscle aches, but NSAIDs also are able to reduce inflammation. There are a number of creams and salves on the market that can reduce pain. These topical analgesics likely give a “warm” sensation when applied to the area. Capzasin is known to give a “hot” feeling to the skin, and some have found it beneficial in the treatment of arthritic pain.

Nonprescription medications are taken so readily and freely by members of society that warning labels are often ignored. Those warnings, however, are quite important. Gastroenterologists advise all their clients that acetaminophen and NSAIDs can have an adverse effect on the digestive system. The second major cause of ulcers is the overuse of NSAIDs. Long-term use of these medications should be monitored by a primary care provider who can help weigh the benefits of the drug treatment against possible side effects.

READ:   Low Back Pain. Contraindications

Prescription Drug Therapy

Prescription drug therapy may include muscle relaxants, antianxiety medications, antidepressants, prescription NSAIDs, steroids, and opioids. Muscle relaxants have an overall sedative effect on the body and act on the brain rather than the muscles to create a total body relaxant. They can be beneficial for muscle spasms and early treatment of low-back pain and can aid in sleep when pain keeps individuals awake. Side effects should be carefully considered. They can be habit-forming and may create changes in sleep cycles.

Antianxiety and antidepressant medications help to reduce depression and anxiety, but some also are able to reduce pain in muscles and joints. They can be particularly helpful for migraine headaches and neuropathic pain. These medications are powerful central nervous system depressants that may be used alone or in conjunction with other analgesic medications.


Prescription NSAIDs reduce inflammation and pain when they block enzymes and prostaglandins (proteins) made by the body. Prostaglandins cause pain when they irritate nerve endings. Prostaglandins help to protect the stomach lining, so blocking this enzyme may produce an adverse effect. These drugs do not alter a person’s cognitive functioning, cause respiratory depression, or cause nausea. A common NSAID is Celebrex, which carries the additional warning of risk for heart attack and stroke. Steroids are very potent anti-inflammatory drugs that also reduce pain. Steroids work directly on the brain’s chemistry to elevate mood and reduce pain.

Steroids, unfortunately, have possible side effects. They suppress the body’s immune function, cause fluid retention and weight gain, can worsen diabetes, and can reduce bone density when used for long periods of time.

READ:   Back pain. The Cause of Pain

Epidural steroid injections are very useful in alleviating pain that radiates from the lower back into the leg (as seen in spinal stenosis [ICD-9: 724.00]) or neck pain that radiates into the arm. The physician uses x-ray fluoroscopy to guide the needle directly into the neural foramen or the point where the affected nerve root exits the spinal canal. These injections do not have the side effects attributed to oral steroids.

Opioids are strong and potentially addictive; therefore, they are to be carefully monitored by the provider giving the prescription. While opioids do not actually rid a person of pain, they work to separate or distance individuals from the feeling of pain. Common opioids are codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine. They are effective pain relievers for all types of pain. There are, however, side effects to consider. They include impairment of mental function, constipation, possible addiction, and interaction with acetaminophen.


Research indicates that health-care professionals and family members tend to undermedicate for pain because of incorrect assumptions, prevailing attitudes, the complexity of pain assessment, and unfounded fears, mainly those of addiction (psychological dependence). However, no medical research testifies to such an addiction. In fact, the use of opioids is indicated in many cases of pain management, and evidence is overwhelming that such fears are greatly exaggerated. Untreated pain adversely affects pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and circulatory systems and can cause insomnia, depression, and irritability, if the pain becomes chronic. Pain must be reduced for healing to occur.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia Pump

Portable infusion pump

FIGURE. Portable infusion pump (CADD-Legacy PCA) for patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). (Courtesy of Smiths Medical MD, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota, with permission.)

A common treatment of some pain is the patientcontrolled analgesia (PCA) pump. The pump allows clients to administer their own pain medication, offering some sense of control of the pain, which is an important psychological benefit. In PCA, the amount of drug dispensed by the pump is determined by the primary care provider. The device is designed to not release more than the prescribed amount within a set period of time, thus guarding against overmedication. Clients who should not use a PCA are those with hypersensitivity to the medication used, those with physical impairments that make it difficult to activate the pump, and those with any emotional or cognitive disability.

READ:   Back Pain. Diagnosis

Intrathecal Drug Delivery

This method to control pain is similar to the PCA pump except that a surgeon places a medicine pump in a small pocket under the skin that delivers medicine from the pump to the intrathecal space around the spinal cord. This system can provide significant pain control with far less drugs than required with pills.


Surgery may be necessary to block the transmission of pain or to remove the cause of pain. Surgery for relief of pain may include such procedures as neurotomy or dissection or division of a nerve; cordotomy or surgical division of one or more of the lateral nerve pathways emerging from the spinal cord; and hypophysectomy or removal of the pituitary gland, as well as the removal of any causative factor. Surgery may be helpful to relieve the pain of pancreatic cancer, the severe intractable pain from other malignancies, or intractable abdominal pain.



An interesting phenomenon is the use of placebos in pain management. A placebo is defined as a medication that produces an effect in a client because of its intent rather than because of its specific physical or chemical properties. In the placebo effect, the person is given a medication or treatment because the person believes it to be effective. When such placebos are used, studies show that 20% to 40% of those with objective stimuli report pain relief, at least for a short time. This is a powerful example of the mind-body connection. The placebo effect results from the natural production of endorphins and enkephalins in the descending control system. The more cues the client receives about the placebo’s effectiveness, the more likely it will be effective in relieving pain.



PAIN AND ITS TREATMENT MODELS Pain affects everyone at one time or another. Many diseases and disorders of the human body are accompanied by pain. It is feared by many people, as much as or more than the disease itself. What is pain? What purpose, if any, does it serve? What happens in the body when a person feels pain? How is pain assessed? What are the different types of pain? Can pain be treated? If so, how? These are some of the questions addressed in this chapter. Pain is an expanding science, and an increasing number of specialty clinics are emerging. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) identifies the following four models for pain treatment: Single service clinics are normally outpatient clinics providing specific pain treatment with the goal to reduce pain. These do not provide comprehensive assessment or management. Examples include a nerve block clinic and a biofeedback clinic. Pain clinics also are outpatient, but their focus is mainly on diagnosis and management of indivi...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 10 — ROTATION MANIPULATION IN EXTENSION The patient lies prone as for procedure 1. The therapist stands to one side of the patient and, having selected the correct segment, places the hands on either side of the spine as for the technique of rotation mobilisation in extension (procedure 9), which is always applied as a premanipulative testing procedure. The information obtained from the mobilisation is vital and determines on which side and in which direction the manipulation is to be performed. If following testing the manipulation is indicated, the therapist reinforces the one hand with the other on the appropriate transverse process. The manipulation is then performed as in procedure 8. Fig. Rotation manipulation in extension. Effects: The effects of the external force and the reasons for its use are the same as for procedure 9. When the desired result is not obtained with the mobilising technique, manipulation is indicated under certain circumstances. Regarding the direction in which the manipulation is to be...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 14 — FLEXION IN STANDING The simple toe touching exercise in standing does not need much elaboration. The patient, standing with the feet about thirty centimeters apart, bends forward sliding the hands down the front of the legs in order to have some support and to measure the degree of flexion achieved. On reaching the maximum flexion allowed by pain or range, the patient returns to the upright position. The sequence is repeated about ten times, should be performed rhythmically, and initially with caution and without vigour. It is important to ensure that in between each movement the patient returns to neutral standing. Fig. Flexion in standing. Effects: Flexion in standing differs from flexion in lying in various ways. Naturally, the gravitational and compressive forces act differently in both situations. In flexion in standing the movement takes place from above downwards, and the lower lumbar and lumbo-sacral joints are placed on full stretch only at the end of the movement. In addition, the lumbo...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 12 — ROTATION MANIPULATION IN FLEXION The sequence of procedure 11 must be followed completely to perform the required pre-manipulative testing. If the manipulation is indicated a sudden thrust of high velocity and small amplitude is performed, moving the spine into extreme side bending and rotation. Fig. Rotation manipulation in flexion. Effects: There are many techniques devised for rotation manipulation of the lumbar spine. When rotation of the lumbar spine is achieved by using the legs of the patient as a lever or fulcrum of movement, confusion arises as to the direction in which the lumbar spine rotates. This is judged by the movement of the upper vertebrae in relation to the lower — for example, if the patient is lying supine and the legs are taken to the right, then the lumbar spine rotates to the left. It has become widely accepted that rotation manipulation of the spine should be performed by rotation away from the painful side. This has applied to derangement as well as dysfunction, because hitherto n...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 17 – SELF-CORRECTION OF LATERAL SHIFT Having corrected the lateral shift and the blockage to extension, it is now essential to teach the patient to perform self-correction by side gliding in standing followed by extension in standing. This must be done on the very first day, so that the patient is equipped with a means of reducing the derangement himself at first sign of regression. Failure to teach self-correction will lead to recurrence within hours, ruining the initial reduction, and the patient will return the next day with the same deformity as on his first visit. I have discarded the technique of self-correction as described previously and instead I now teach patients to respond to pressures applied laterally against shoulder and pelvis. Initially, therapist’ assistance is required. Patient and therapist stand facing each other. The therapist places one hand on the patient’s shoulder on the side to which he deviates, and the other hand on the patient’s opposite iliac crest. The therapist applies pressure by squeez...